There is talk that Kevin Rudd’s success in the Australian general election was due more to various postings on YouTube than to his commitment to new and better leadership.
But no matter. He has, within hours of becoming Prime Minister, taken the first steps towards signing the Kyoto climate change treaty and, according to the Guardian, consulted Gordon Brown and others on additional measures necessary to curb the damage of greenhouse gas emissions.
Let us hope that not only will Mr Brown encourage his new counterpart to introduce legislation to cut emissions but that Mr Rudd’s enthusiasm for taking on climate change is as infectious in return.
The UK government has committed the country to cutting emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 but it is dawning on Mr Brown that 60 per cent may not be enough. This is where the youthful energy of Mr Rudd may help.
Scientists warn that only an 80 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide will be enough to limit temperature rise this century to 2C.
Perhaps Mr Rudd is considering this in his early prime ministerial musings. Lobbyists including the RSPB will be stressing how necessary the 80 per cut is at next month’s climate change summit in Bali. UK Environment Minister Hilary Benn will be there and Mr Rudd has promised to attend too. Perhaps he can persuade Mr Brown to join him.
Two of the world’s leading nations, the UK and Australia, could set a tremendous example to the rest of the world by committing to cutting greenhouse gases by 80 per cent. Even more pressure would be put on George Bush to accept just how serious climate change is becoming.
If Mr Rudd can achieve the first part of this, he will have done exceptionally well. The second may be beyond his reach but who knows, another YouTube video might just do it.
For the Guardian's report, click here
Farmers, notably livestock farmers, are being pressured to do their bit to cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change. Rightly so with the Vegetarian Society claiming that emissions from livestock are responsible for almost 20 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The NFU disputes this figure, putting it at closer to 10 per cent but even so, that's still a lot of pollution and even more warming.
Livestock farming provides benefits for wildlife and improves landscapes but it also means cows and sheep burping methane - a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than carbon dioxide. It involves the use of chemicals and imported animal foods while the transport of livestock and livestock products causes carbon emissions.
But we do need to eat, and we do need to eat protein, and vegan diets don't suit everyone. So what can we do to cut livestock emissions while continuing to eat what we need, retain the benefits of animals grazing the countryside and keep livestock farmers away from the dole queues?
Next week bureaucrats in Brussels will launch their 'health check' of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy. One proposal in the health check is to limit the amount of money that can be paid to a single farmer or landowner which could cut the CAP bill by millions of pounds. Another is to increase the amount of money being switched from subsidies to farmers to payments for measures that help farmland wildlife.
Because profits are low, livestock farming has become more intensive with larger herds on smaller areas. Environmental damage, such as habitat loss and water pollution, is more likely but unless farmers are rewarded for looking after the environment they will continue to farm in the same way. That's where the Health Check can help.
The EU is already throwing Є2 billion of 'surplus' CAP money at the controversial Galileo space programme and should not be allowed to give away any more. Instead, Europe's agriculture money should be used to pay more farmers to farm in a greener way. That means something to replace the benefits of set-aside and a significantly bigger pot for birds needing specialist help like cirl buntings, stone-curlews and corn buntings. Farming in this way would cut carbon emissions too.
The EU must grab the bull by the horns, reform the CAP into one fit for the 21st century and re-shape farming so that it provides enough food but not too much, helps tackle climate change and re-creates the spaces that wildlife once filled.
The government's new biofuels quango has a big job to do if it is to give credibility to ministers' policies on the import and manufacture of biofuels. The FT reported yesterday that establishing the Renewable Fuels Agency was an attempt by transport secretary Ruth Kelly to dampen criticism of government strategies on renewable fuel. It's a bit late for that, given that the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation has been waived through by Parliament. From April next year, this new regulation will require at least five per cent of the UK's transport fuels to come from biofuels but there's no compulsion on producers to prove that their crop sources are sustainable or that their cropping methods actually cut emissions. There is no mention of this in Ms Kelly's press release. Nor is there mention of the impact that growing energy crops on land previously farmed for food crops will have on poorer communities in developing countries. Columnist George Monbiot said in yesterday's Guardian that the government of Swaziland was exporting biofuel made from cassava, one of the country's staple crops. Thousands of hectares of farmland had been switched to ethanol production in the district of Swaziland worst hit by drought. At the same time, 40 per cent of Swaziland's people were facing acute food shortages. Those promoting biofuels have lost sight of what these fuels are there to do - to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of climate change. The west is pushing ahead too hastily with barely a thought for the consequences - rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Brazil and the ploughing up of set-aside land in Europe. And countries like Swaziland are inevitably jumping at the chance of a big fat cheque. George Monbiot says the humanitarian impact of biofuel developments will be greater than the Iraq war if policies are not reversed. If policies are not reversed biofuel development will have no impact at all on efforts to curb climate change. Click here for Ruth Kelly’s press release
Click here to read George Monbiot